By Innocent Odoh, Abuja
Since the death of Chadian President Idris Deby, on Tuesday April 20, in the hands of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) fighting to wrestle power from him, the succession of political leadership in the country has again stirred up the question of democratic norms and principles in Africa.
The country’s armed forces swiftly chose Deby’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat, as successor to Deby in flagrant violation of the country’s constitution, which stipulates that the head of the country’s parliament should be bestowed with power in the event of the death of the President within stipulated time until elections are held.
The constitutional provision did not matter to the Chadian military leaders that enthroned Mahamat, a general himself in the Army. Since then a succession of protests to demand for the restoration of democratic norms was met with a heavy crackdown by the Chadian forces, which killed scores and injured many coupled with indiscriminate arrest of suspected opposition, and civil society groups.
Although Chadian military leaders have set an 18- month transition period to conduct elections, it is quite safe to predict that judging by the undemocratic history of the arid nation, the Idris Deby dynasty, represented by his son, can only be consolidated in what might turn out to be a sham election process that would return the young Mahamat as the next ‘democratically’ elected president.
The stamp of approval for Mahamat was perhaps strengthened on Friday, May 14, when he embarked on a one-day visit to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the two leaders held a behind closed doors meeting on Friday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The two leaders were said to have taken the opportunity to deliberate on the menace of terrorism and arms proliferation threatening the peace and security of the sub-region especially the Sahel and the Lake Chad region ravaged by the Boko Haram and other terrorist groups since both countries share boundaries in the Sahel region.
The growing acceptance of the Mahamat as the leader of the transitional military council in Chad have left pundits to ponder on the way forward for democracy in Africa, such that even the Western Powers that preach democracy have at this time instead preferred the stability of the country especially as Chad is very useful in the fight against insurgents under the late Idris. France and the United States especially have ignored Deby’s excesses, his repression of dissenting voices, his corruption, manipulation of the constitution to pave the way for him to always retain power since he came to power in a coup in 1990.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the fate of democracy in Chad, an international constitutional law expert, Livingstone Wechie, frowned at the enthronement of the son of the late Idris Deby as his successor in flagrant violation of the constitution and the apparent support for the Deby dynasty by the Western powers .
He said “ Make no mistakes, I get curious when America, France and the rest of Europe begin to praises a character like Idris Deby given his anti democratic tendencies and antecedents. America prides itself as a symbol of democracy and liberty yet promotes an anti democratic despot like Deby who held Chad through rebellion to ransom for thirty years.
“This is no less due to the trade interest of the West around the Trans Sahara routes. It is important to note that there are two major trade routes, the Trans Atlantic and Trans Sahara routes which are of great importance to the West. The most volatile and more lucrative one is the Trans Sahara which falls within the Lake Chad and Sahel region. In these routes, the West has terribly weaponised and armourised the region causing both religious and ethnic war resulting in instability and underdevelopment
“What you see here is a war of attrition that misdirects focus for development while insurgency continues to thrive. Under the guise of insurgency, religion has been the biggest tool which is why the likes of Deby who is now falsely portrayed as a hero by the West spent his thirty years busy fighting rebels created by the same West just to promote instability, the only way they can carry out their Oil and Arms trade without hitches.
“Idris Deby was an enemy agent and never a role model. He was at the heart of the Western instigated insurgency that has frustrated development in our region and that was why he ended up as their victim.”
Wechie also frowned at the transition programme, which he said was designed by the West and is sure to produce Mahamat as the next president whether the people voted or not.
“There can never be a genuine transition because Chadians have not been given the opportunity to voluntarily discuss their future. Chad is still under military monarchy as long as the Deby dynasty is concerned.
“This is what we must tell ourselves. The West and America are designing what is happening in Chad. It is all a script. Déby’s son has a timeline by the West based on a mandate and nothing more. History is replete with what to expect in the coming years. The gentleman will evolve or metamorphose into a life leader of that state because the West wants it so,” he said.
However, another expert in international relations and diplomacy, Austin Onuoha, noted that Chad does not have a democratic history and may have to become more stable before democracy can thrive in the country.
“There is no way that Chad will qualify as a democracy. Even when Idris Deby was alive, he only pretended to have elections, those were not elections. Secondly, if you recall, the son was not holding any elective or appointive position. How he got into the army and became a general only God that knows. So, you find out that when we talk about leadership recruitment and succession, he does not fall in anywhere.
“I think Chad requires stability first before they build democracy because the country is at war. So, what it needs is appropriate peace keeping that requires an interim administration that will bring most of the parties together, to be able to hold the country together until they stabilize in such a way that they will be able to hold a free and fair election. But for now anything they are doing is neither here nor there,” he said.
Chad’s historical experience and the circumstances surrounding the nation present a dangerous curve of democracy in the hands of some African leaders. Chad is not alone in this dilemma, Africa is replete with such relic of leaders who bestride the continent like colossus undermining the democratic potentials of the continent and stifling its political and economic development.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has just taken an oath for a sixth time in office after coming to power since 1986. There seems to be no term limit in Uganda because Musevemi has so manipulated the system and structures and repressed opposition and civil society groups, such that every election cycle will favour him.
In Cameroun, President Paul Biya has been in power since 1980. Now looking frail due to old age, the Cameroonian strongman has remained a sit-tight president and the hallmark of his leadership has been to exploit undemocratic means to muscle out opposition to cling on to power.
In Cote d’ Ivoire, President Allassane Outarra, after serving out his two terms of five years each since he emerged President in 2010, forced his way back to power after he manipulated the constitution to allow him another term office following the death of his anointed successor.
In Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago has remained almost the live President of the small country. Obiang came to power in August 1979 and has since remained there with widespread human right abuses, corruption and abuse of power.
Under him, Equatorial Guinea is currently a dominant –party state in which Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) holds virtually all governing power in the nation. According reports, “the constitution provides Obiang sweeping powers, including the right to rule by decree, effectively making his government a legal dictatorship.”
These and many more have defined the democratic circumstance of Africa. But there are some shining lights where periodic elections are held within the provisions of the law, nevertheless filled with irregularities. Such countries as Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, etc still hold much hope for the continent, irrespective of the difficulties of using democracy to develop their economies.
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